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The planetary secrets of C.S. Lewis

{mosimage}Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis by Michael Ward (Oxford University Press, 347 pages, hardcover, $31.95).

Planet Narnia is one of the most creative works of scholarship I have read since I fled the murky world of graduate studies in English literature. Michael Ward sets before us one of the great mysteries of C.S. Lewis studies, i.e. what is the underlying unity among the seven Narnia stories, and solves it. It’s the kind of thing that makes a rival PhD student throw her laptop across the room and take to drink. Ward has made a brilliant discovery.

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No getting to know Merton here

{mosimage}Thomas Merton: Hermit at the Heart of Things, by J.S. Porter. (Novalis, softcover, 216 pages, $24.95, ISBN Number 9782896460083).

Thomas Merton was an American poet and writer who died accidentally at the age of 56 in 1968 after a remarkably public life (especially for a Trappist monk).

Learning God's plan along Field of Stars

{mosimage}To the Field of Stars: A Pilgrim’s Journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, softcover, 271 pages $19.99).

In the opening pages of his book, priest and author Fr. Kevin Codd dedicates his words to his mother and father, “who taught me how to walk.” Whether this is in gratitude or accusation for the anguished steps that would follow 50 years later when he walked the almost-800 kilometres to Santiago de Compostela is for the next 270 pages to reveal. But what is immediately apparent is that Codd’s parents have, in fact, taught him how to walk and write — an essential combination for his pilgrimage.

When the extroverts struggle with faith

Spirituality For Extroverts by Nancy Reeves (Abingdon Press, softcover, 155 pages, $10.99).

As an introvert, I’ve always carried the unexamined  bias that religion is largely the domain of introverts.

Of course this is a fallacy, and Nancy Reeves has written Spirituality For Extroverts to rehabilitate the reputation of non-introverts. Reeves is just the person for the task. She is not only a clinical psychologist and spiritual director, but also an extrovert herself.

Inside our consumerist society

{mosimage}Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire, by William T. Cavanaugh (William B. Eerdmans, 96 pages, softcover, $13.50).

Our homes and garages are filled with all sorts of stuff, some of which we need, and a lot of which we do not. The words “shopaholic” and “retail therapy” are part of our everyday vocabulary. We tend to use them in a self-deprecating sense. At the same time, we admit to ourselves that we are not going shopping out of necessity, but simply for the sake of it. We feel a void in our lives and hope shopping will make us feel better but what we end up buying often has very little meaning for us afterwards. We never fill the spiritual void, so we go out to shop again.

Fr. Joe offers a cautionary tale to would-be missionaries

{mosimage}The Gospel of Father Joe: Revolutions and Revelations in the Slums of Bangkok by Greg Barrett (Jossey-Bass, 336 pages, hardcover, $28.99 list)

The missionary tradition in the Catholic Church is centuries old. Missionaries left their own homelands to do good works and spread Christianity in far away places — most notably Africa, Asia and Latin American countries. Not all missionaries went to the poorer countries of the Third World. They figure prominently in colonial history in the North as well. In our country, missionaries had quite an impact on aboriginal peoples, as we were recently reminded during Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology to residential school survivors.

There’s something about Mary

{mosimage}Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God, by Ginny Kubitz Moyer (St. Anthony Messenger Press, softcover, 120 pages, $14).

This compelling little book, written by an unmistakable Mary enthusiast, attempts to answer a question asked time and time again by Catholic women: How is the Virgin Mary relevant to my life?

Creation through Franciscan eyes

{mosimage}Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth by Ilia Delio, O.S.F, Keith Douglas Warner, O.F.M., and Pamela Wood (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 226 pages, softcover, $18.95).

This book made me nervous, but also had me excited. My Franciscan community has studied and reflected on cosmic theology and eco-spirituality this past year in preparation for our general chapter this month. Through it all, there was for me a need to maintain a sound doctrinal understanding of our faith as Roman Catholic religious.

Seeing beyond Africa’s problems

{mosimage}African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men and Women by Camille Lewis Brown (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 145 pages, softcover, $14.95).

With good reason, the continent of Africa is often at the centre of Catholic debates pertaining to world affairs and global politics. The haunting shadows of the Rwanda genocide and present realities in places like Darfur and Congo are a constant challenge to the Christian conscience and test the boundaries of our own charity.

Dialogue is one way

{mosimage}Feminist Theology with a Canadian Accent, edited by Mary Ann Beavis, Elaine Guillemin and Barbara Pell (Novalis, softcover, 444 pages, $34.95).

With the Catholic Church refusing to ordain women or even entertain the idea, feminists and the church have entered into a longstanding non-meeting of the minds. Because of this deadlock, dialogue has turned to monologue, a sad reality reflected in the pages of Feminist Theology with a Canadian Accent, a collection of 19 essays by Canadian feminist theologians and scholars.

In community we find home

{mosimage}Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian J. Walsh (Wm.B. Eerdman’s Publishing, softcover, $27.99).

Stone by stone, as he laboured to build his summer house on Lake Geneva, the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung came to recognize that home — with its design, rooms, windows, corners and doors — mirrored the human psyche, with all its needs, shadows and spiritual longings. Home is foundational to individual identity and therefore acknowledged as one of our universal human rights.